Thomas Jefferson Papers

II. From John Thomson Mason, [7 December 1801]

II. From John Thomson Mason

Monday morning [7 Dec. 1801]

Dear Sir

In the copy I have prepared some few alterations are made which I beg leave to submit to you before it goes out of my hands

Instead of Bissextile read “every fourth year” if it stands bissextile will it not be confined to what is commonly called Leap year? if so it would involve us in difficulty as to the commencement of the election for Governor &c. Cowels Interpreter thus defines it “Bissextile   Bissextiles vulgarly called leap year, because the sixth day before the Calends of March is twice reckoned viz on the 24th & 25th of February: so that the Bissextile year hath one day more than other years, and happens every fourth year.”

In the 4th clause including the preamble but excluding the title read after the word quallification “and due election” without this addition I do not see that any authority is given them to judge of the due election of their own members, which I presume it was intended they should have.

at the end of the 4th clause limitting executive powers add “And the Lieutenant Governor in case one be appointed shall before he enters upon the execution of his office solemnly swear or affirm in like manner” Unless this be added there is no provision for placing him under the obligation of an Oath of Office

I think as the Executive of the U.S. appoints the Governor the U.S. ought to pay him. I think Congress would consent to do so. I wish you would think of this

I am so unwell today that I have been compelled to take Medicine and cannot go to the Capitol this morning, but I shall be able I believe and will certainly be there in the morning of tomorrow

With great respect yours

J. T. Mason

RC (DLC); partially dated; endorsed by TJ as received 7 Dec. and so recorded in SJL.

TJ had two editions of John Cowell’s interpreter, a law dictionary, one edited by Thomas Manley and published in London in 1672, the other edited by White Kennett and published there in 1708 (see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends Nos. 1812, 1813). The bill presented to the House on 26 Jan. incorporated Mason’s language and “bissextile” does not appear in it (A Bill, For establishing the Government for the Territory of Columbia [Washington, D.C., 1802], 2).

Due election: the third section of the bill for the Territory of Columbia included the passage that elected members of the House of Representatives would be the “judge of the qualifications and due election of its own members.” The House bill included a passage on the oath of office for the lieutenant governor with the wording recommended by Mason. U.S. Ought to pay him: in the 26 Jan. bill, the governor received his salary from the U.S. Treasury (same, 5–6).

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